Better bloggers than I have praised the triumph and bemoaned the heartbreak of being a theatre major. While getting my BFA has certainly had its perks, many of my most valuable skills came from the six years I spent in junior high and high school as part of a youth acting troupe. Whether in a youth production (just the by-audition only 12 to 18 years olds from the company) or “adult” show, I spent twelve months a year building my community theatre resume. Performance aside, I learned some serious skills that are the envy of many (in my head at least).
- Make Up. My make up skills are fierce, ya’ll. Years of doing my own and several of my male friends make up has made me a force of cosmetic nature. I can cover, contour, blend, and highlight. Give me a basic tool kit and I can do age, animal, or other sorts of wackiness. Should we ever need to go on the lam, I could fashion a beard out of mascara, sponge and some gum. One of my proudest moments was when a friend called me at 2 am because I was the one person she could think of who would know how to cover a hickey. And I do.
Card Games. Hours of sitting backstage and in rehearsals meant probably actual years of my life spent playing Spades, Bullsh*t, Spit, and Speed. I can play Spades like a mad woman.
- Odd Handy Skills. Working in scene and costume shops as part of your youth gives you a unique set of skills. Painting, construction, alterations, dying–check. Most theatrical designs are done in sketches. Beautiful, sometimes borderline abstract sketches. Learning how to turn such a sketch into actual stuff means that I can slay the crap out of some Ikea.
- Fun Party Tricks. The following list includes some, but not all, festive things I’ve learned either for a production or at a cast party: wrapping myself about a pool stick and then unwrapping in a very yoga way, putting my legs over my shoulders, Romanian and other strange accents, numerous amazing dance steps (pivot, box step, grapevine, heel click), hiding in small spaces, making fun faces (Calvin and Frog faces are my signature), the Time Warp, catalog of show tunes (including Sondheim, which is tricky stuff), a rhythmic cup game that involves passing cups in an awesome way (shut up–it is fantastic to behold), and many more.
- Quick Change Skills. Any theatre kid worth his/her salt has had a lightening fast costume change. That means we can all get in and out of complicated clothes (and sometimes make up and/or wigs) expeditiously. It also means we have a lowered sense of modesty, which can be a good or bad thing, depending on your perspective.
- Make It Work Determination. Before my first major production, the sole of my shoe (having been used in production for about 20 years) came off. So just a few minutes before curtain I found myself standing in the shop while the director hot glued my shoe back together . . . while it was on my foot. The fun of theatre is that because it is live, anything can happen. I’ve been in productions where people fainted on stage, the lights went out, things fell over, people dropped lines (or made up really strange ones), animals went nuts, the lead actress was sick so the choreographer was lip synching while doing the role–it’s a potpourri of craziness. I almost killed one of my best friends when my petticoat went rogue during the opening number of Bye Bye Birdie. Whatever the drama, we go on and live to perform another day.